‘3-in-1’ congress in Iloilo a PH milestone
RJAY ZURIAGA CASTOR
The Manila Times
This city is set to host the first-ever National Coffee, Cacao and Coconut (Cocanut) Congress 2023 on November 8-10 at the Iloilo Convention Center. The three-in-one national congress is projected to be one of the biggest forum and exhibition events that will showcase and promote the potential of the coffee, cacao and coconut industry in the country. Larry Nacionales, overall chairman of the Cocanut Congress, said the rationale for focusing on the three commodities stems from their great economic value such as in production, export or employment generation. “The rationale behind why we focused on these three commodities is that if we try to look at the economic value of these three commodities to the agriculture sector, it is really big,” he explained. Nacionales also highlighted that cultivating these high-value crops introduces an alternative means of producing food while helping in the topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, and in improving the water cycle. “[It] will directly and indirectly benefit the other [commodities]. If you put so many of [these], the biodiversity will improve and ultimately it will bring back the nutrient in the soil [...] that was totally wiped out for the last 20 years of venturing to the conventional approach,” he said. Nacionales pointed out that the current state of the agriculture sector is vastly different from what it was just a few years ago and there is a pressing need to understand the evolving landscape of these commodities, to cope with the demands of the global market. “The congress will be talking about that is all related to natural resources, concerns about soil’s health, water availability and most particularly biodiversity, which relates to our forest. We need to also ascertain the global requirement of the market of these three commodities,” he said. Louie Tirador, chairman of POPA Agriculture Cooperative, also reiterated the importance of shifting some of that focus to upland agriculture, as there are vast, untapped upland areas that could significantly contribute to the country’s agricultural output. “We should also put emphasis on the significance of upland areas because we have many uplands that remain unused or underutilized due to our limited understanding of technology and how to effectively manage these three products,” Tirador said. The congress will feature plenary sessions with the secretaries of the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as experts from the trade and agriculture industries. A trade exhibition is also expected to bring in major players in the industry to showcase the latest innovations and provide network opportunities. With the theme “Thriving and Innovating through Changing Climates,” the three-day event is expected to gather over 1,500 stakeholders, including producers, trading companies, micro, small and medium enterprises and farmers cooperatives, among others. Among the top officials of the government expected to attend the congress are President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chairman Sen. Cynthia Villar. The congress will be organized by POPA Agriculture Corp., in partnership with the Iloilo City government, Iloilo Provincial government and Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council (RAFC-6).